10 Things You Are Doing That Are Keeping You From Success

10 Things You Are Doing That Are Keeping You From Success
An empty road in the snow near Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge
Michael Tunney
December 16, 2013
Empty Road
The end of the year is upon us and you know what that means: annoying New Years resolution blog posts. We all know that stuff doesn’t work. This is not one of those pieces. If you’re coming here you probably already have goals and are working towards them to various degrees of success. You don’t need someone telling you to try harder or be more ambitious. What is difficult to address are our own blind spots — we are often our own worst enemies. This post will help you self-diagnose and remove the obstacles that we often put up ourselves that prevent us from truly succeeding. Here are 10 Things You Are Doing That Are Keeping You From Success.

Focusing on the end product, instead each step to get there.

Whether you are looking for a job, building a product or starting a company, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by your final goal. Its important to have a clear view of what “success” for you looks like and to work back from there, every step of the way. Look at the people you admire and recognize all the steps they took to get where they are. It didn’t happen overnight. Which is why it’s important to plan all the way to the end. By breaking down the process and working backwards you’ll be less overwhelmed and it’ll be easier to stay on the path.

The first step you’re thinking of isn’t small enough.

You want to start a blog? Build a business? Start with the smallest step you can imagine. If that isn’t sexy enough, or isn’t what you imagined it would be in your head, then maybe you don’t really want it. Starting with the smallest step reduces friction and prevents resistance from creeping in. Companies like AppSumo were built with $50, there’s nothing stopping you from starting but your commitment to it.

The knowing vs. doing gap needs to be closed.

Thanks to the Internet, you can read from self-help gurus, social media experts, and lifestyle coaches until your eyes bleed. There is no limit to the case studies you can find, the founders stories to inspire, and self-help books you can read. Seriously, you can do this forever and never really accomplish anything. In fact, this is what most people do. So close the gap. Give yourself a new rule — don’t read any of that stuff unless you are going to immediately apply it. You might get so bored with yourself you have to do something about it.

You aren’t asking the right questions, or any questions at all.

I’ve learned general advice is generally worthless. Successful people want to help you; they’ve been in your shoes. But they can’t help you if you go to them asking, “I want to be a marketer, or I want to get a job at a start-up.” Come ready to ask about specific companies, specific roles, and specific skills. I remember meeting Ramit Sethi at party at SXSW and asking him for general advice about a job interview I had the next day. His response, “I hate giving general advice, give me something more specific.” So I did and he helped me out with a part of my story I was struggling with. Most general advice is terrible institutionalized dogma. Be curious and ask specific questions and you’ll be able to make that tough decision on your own.

Stop seeking validation from other people — prove it to yourself.

Entrepreneurs start businesses and most of them fail. Writers write and are seldom published. You don’t need a profile in FastCo to run your own business, and you don’t need a publishing contract from Simon & Schuster to publish your book. We all think we just need that one big break, but it just hasn’t come yet. But the reality is your individual effort creates the breaks. They don’t come to you. Can’t start your marketing plan before hooking that big investor? Keep submitting guests posts to blogs to no avail? If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably smart, educated, and ambitious, so what do you need “them” for?

You haven’t killed your ego yet.

Every conversation you have or mistake you make isn’t a reflection of your identity as a person. This is why artists create corporations for their businesses. Of course they do it for the financial and tax advantages as well, but its a great way to separate your ego from your work. If you think of your work as a separate business with a P&L statement, it helps remove some of the defenses your ego puts up when you are getting outside your comfort zone. When you do this, you won’t take criticism so personally and you won’t be so afraid to be different.

“That’ll get done next month.”

Deadlines make the world go round. Seriously. Not much would happen in the business world unless there were hard dates for things to get done. Be vigilant in setting deadlines for yourself and your employees and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish. Like TheLastPsych says, “Nothing trumps ambivalence like a looming deadline.”

The Fearful Attitude

Robert Greene talks about this in The 50th Law. Thousands of years ago, humans were fearful of things that were tangible and real. Basically, animals that could kill them and other humans. Since then human fear has evolved with the development of civilization. Our fear has turned into a kind of generalized anxiety that is more abstract and creeps into our attitude towards life. And as we give into it, a self-fulfilling dynamic is created and it turns into a kind of paralyzed inaction. The way back from this is our own attitude, how we choose cut through all the bullshit and see things as they are.

“I wonder what their process is?”

These articles are actively hurting your prospects. They’re masturbation. Reading them makes you think you need those things to accomplish what you want. For Lifehacker, it’s easy pageviews for people stuck in a cubicle who would rather fantasize about someone else’s life instead of quitting a job they hate. I often thought that successful people had some amazing process that they used to get stuff done and run their businesses. When you get a peek behind the curtain, you find that it’s the exact opposite. It’s not special or genius or even fun. You know the process is? Getting the work done and shipping it. That’s it.

You’re hanging around with the wrong people.

In his commencement address at MIT, Dropbox founder Drew Houston said that there would be no Dropbox if he hadn’t spent the summer after his graduation watching his friend go from coding in his boxers around the clock because the AC was broken to getting a $5 million investment from Sun Microsystems for his startup. It was a shock to his system and he knew he was out of excuses. Houston said, “He had no idea at the time, but Adam had given me just the kick I needed. It was time for change.” If you feel stuck, and the people you hang out with are in the same spot as you are, it’s time to make a change. Find people who have had some success or have changed their trajectory. You’ll learn more from them just through osmosis that any book you’ll read.
Notice how none of these things require anything but ourselves to become aware of them and change things. There are no gadgets to buy, memberships to belong to, or books to read. They are all things that we do to ourselves that prevent us from getting what we want. All they require are self-awareness and action. By cutting ourselves off from the mental crutches that give us comfort we can instead put our heads down and focus on what counts: the work. And when you pick your head up next year you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you’ve accomplished.
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